Initiative ’17 – Part #5: Flipping the Switch

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

What the heck does “flipping the switch” mean?

Some of you probably already know, some may not. But let me give you my take on what it means. I will do it somewhat long-winded but for a reason. Hang in there with me.

Most people don’t grow up and live their life having to flip the switch. If you played athletics you got a small taste of it when you trotted onto the field. I on the other hand, had to learn switch flipping when I was a young teenager. Why? Because I spent my early teenage years in a military school. But, it didn’t end there, I spent the next four+ years in the military…flipping the switch.

Can you image at the age of 13 hearing a bugle sounding “reveille”…and you better be jumping out of bed, dressed, and standing by your bed for your company commander to come walking by. You learn to wake up very quickly, alert, and to move quickly.

Then comes my time in the US Navy. The same style of waking-up, etc., so not much changed. Then came along “general quarters”…life changed again. General quarters is a call for everyone on the ship to go to their battle stations. You have to drop whatever you are doing and get to a specific place in the ship and prepare to go into battle. And you have precious little time to do it. Should you be only a couple of seconds late hatches are slammed shut and you are caught where you are…not at your battle station and not ready to do your job.

When in-port I was also part of the damage control team. When a fire broke out onboard ship we had to react quickly to fight the fire. And as you guessed it by now…another flip the switch moment. And then when I became a structure firefighter it was all about flipping the switch. Sometimes it was a house fire, sometimes a bad wreck on the Interstate, maybe a baby choking, sometimes a big brush fire, but the “alarms” going off during our shift made us get into high-gear quickly. And that meant our minds had to be entirely focused on the job at hand once the alarm bell sounded.

So, is there a difference in emergency preparedness when it comes to emergencies, disasters, or especially in the case of a grid-down event?

Look, I’ve come up on an accident scene and observed people just standing there looking at what is happening…instead of helping. It just never entered their mind to actually roll up their sleeves and help people that were injured or put out a small car fire with a fire extinguisher. They simply froze, unable to take action.

I remember one time a hurricane was expected to hit near our area and the flooding was expected to be intense. And we drove by a house where the homeowner was mowing his yard. What!?! Yup, he was in denial that the flooding would be bad from the impending hurricane…and engaged in Normalcy Bias.

What does any of that have to do with switch flipping?

Simple, you have to be ready to be in a state of mind to deal with the myriad problems that will come along in emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events. You have to forget mowing your grass and start filling sandbags.

It would be a legitimate question right about now if you asked, “How do I learn to do that?”

Well, go to military school, join the Navy, become a firefighter, etc. But, for most folks all that isn’t possible or practical. So, how does the average person learn that skill? Drill.

Yeah, pretty simple really…you drill. “Drill” means practice for those of you that might not clearly understand what I mean.

Here is how I would go about it if I was just learning this concept:

  1. Hold a day time fire drill with your family.
  2. Hold a night time fire drill with your family. Yeah, that means when your family is asleep.
  3. Set your alarm to go off 1am. When it goes off you must accomplish –
    1. You must get fully dressed.
    2. You must be in your car with the car running and out of the garage.
    3. Do that in less than 2 minutes.
  4. Have your spouse set your alarm for you at whatever time they choose. Accomplish everything in #3.
  5. During the day have your alarm set for a random time. When it goes off –
    1. You must change into your tactical gear, including vest.
    2. You must have your pistol and long gun on you in battle configuration.
    3. You must have all of your other battle rattle on you as if you are going to war.
    4. Yeah, don’t go running outside and stand in the driveway for this one.
  6. Go to your favorite shooting location with a couple of your buddies. Explain to them what you are trying to accomplish. Here’s how I would like it to go –
    1. You set up a series of targets that you have to move to and in between. A couple are long gun targets, a couple are pistol targets. Each one takes a different position (i.e. prone, lying down, hide behind a barrier, etc.). And one movement between targets must involve a transition from long gun to pistol.
    2. You are in full battle rattle, ready for war.
    3. You sit around, or stand around, with your buddies just enjoying the friendship time.
    4. Any one of your buddies at any time can sound the alarm. That is your cue to flip your switch.
    5. You proceed to each target in an expeditious manner. While you are engaging your targets your buddies are yelling at you, they have an air horn that they are sounding…anything for distraction.

By now you get the idea. You are learning to go from 0 to 60mph as fast as possible. You change your state of mind from the everyday life mode to the “I’m fully engaged” mode as quickly and completely as possible.

Here’s what you accomplish by learning to flip the switch:

  1. You learn to become instantly engaged in situations that are potentially dangerous.
  2. You learn to hyper-mode your Situational Awareness very quickly.
  3. You learn to overcome cognitive dissonance.
  4. You gain confidence in your ability to handle potentially bad situations.
  5. You greatly increase your ability to survive and protect your family.

Over the years I’ve seen so many people simply freeze when facing a bad situation. Their brains simply become overloaded with their circumstances and they become mentally and physically immobilized. That may well kill you when facing emergency preparedness situations.

On the other side of the coin I’ve seen folks do some amazing things because they’ve learn to act quickly. They don’t wait for events to overwhelm them, they control the situation, and they take action. You can be one of those people.

A couple of years ago during a class I was taking to be mentally prepared to survive deadly situations they had people stand about three feet apart. Then when the instructor said “go!” they had to raise their paintball guns and start shooting. Why? True, it was only paintball but they still hurt. And it was amazing to see that it was only a small fraction of a second between the first person getting off their shot…and the other person getting off their first shot. So, who would win in a real life gun battle? Almost always it is the person who lands the first shot…like 98% of the time.

It was who flipped their switch the quickest.

Don’t be the dolt that freezes up. Don’t be that person who doesn’t take action quickly enough…and their family falls in the victim category. Your family deserves more.




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5 thoughts on “Initiative ’17 – Part #5: Flipping the Switch

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